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Mars’ scenic sands star in Chinese rover’s sweeping red planet panorama


China’s Zhurong rover snapped this broad panorama of the Utopia Planitia area of Mars.


CNSA

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

August has been quite the month for Mars panoramas. First, NASA’s Curiosity rover celebrated nine years on the red planet with a rock-studded view of the Gale Crater. Now China’s Zhurong rover is getting in on the action with a sandy scene from its Martian home in Utopia Planitia.

Zhurong, part of the China National Space Administration’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission, is scoping out a broad plains region. CNSA released a panorama view on Monday that also shows off the rover’s solar panels. The landscape is full of small rocks, along with some lovely sand dunes visible on the right side of the panorama.

While Curiosity is marking its Mars time in years, Zhurong has proudly outlasted its original three-month life expectancy and is now on an extended mission as it continues to work its way across Utopia Planitia. CNSA announced the extension earlier this month. So far the rover has covered nearly 3,500 feet (1,064 meters) since landing in May. 

The panorama adds to Zhurong’s impressive photo album. In June, the rover delivered one of the finest Mars portraits ever taken thanks to an assist from a remote camera.

China’s Tianwen-1 mission consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover. Zhurong’s presence brought the number of active Mars rovers up to three along with NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance, which are off exploring different parts of the planet. That means we currently have an embarrassment of rover riches giving us windows onto the red planet’s wild and rocky vistas.

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